Farm Breweries, Some Lawmakers Finally Get It!

Farm Breweries, Some Lawmakers Finally Get It!

Feb 26, 2016, 10:17:58 PM Business

A shot in the arm for Nano-Breweries in NY and MD !


A relatively new phenomenon in the craft beer space is the advent of the “farm brewery”.  My research has shown they only exist in New York and Maryland at this point. What exactly is a farm brewery? Well, it boils down to new, less restrictive legislation for small craft breweries that either grow many of their own ingredients or source them from local farmers. Rules are different in each state but the spirit behind these laws is similar. They’re born out of a desire to stimulate local commerce (and job creation) by lowering the bars to entry for would-be Nano-Breweries and enhancing profitability for existing ones.  Craft brewers who desire to keep things local and sustainable are now getting lots of encouragement in these states. By incentivizing brewers to buy or grow at least some percentage of ingredients in their home state, lawmakers can be sure these more liberal regulations will benefit other local small businesses and small family farms in particular.

Farm breweries will typically pay lower state licensing fees than larger commercial breweries. They will also be allowed to “self-distribute” without the need for any additional licensing. They may operate a tap room on-site and may also sell product at several other locations like state or county fairs and farmers markets. Typically, beer sold off-site is for consumption off premises unless it’s sold at an establishment with proper licensing like a restaurant, bar or another brewery.

In addition to selling craft beer, farm breweries may be able to conduct beer tastings or craft beer educational events. They can also hand out free samples within certain limitations. Imagine being able to hand out samples of your best brews at a fair, farmers market or other event with beaucoup foot traffic! Imagine being able to take beer orders or directly sell that beer to enthusiastic tasters. Imagine hundreds or maybe thousands of potential customers walking past your beer booth. The best part is most of these folks are not only interested in craft beer but also in local culture and supporting local, green and sustainable enterprises. Let’s face it, people that go to farmers markets (or to a lesser degree state and county fairs) are there for a reason. They could just as well go to Vons or Ralphs for their groceries and other items but they don’t. Why? Because they want locally grown, farm fresh goods sans chemicals, preservatives and pesticides. They want organic, healthy, unique, interesting and locally sourced and the beer drinkers among them are solidly within the perfect craft beer drinking demographic!

But wait….There's more! You don’t have to stop at just selling beer.  You could also sell beer based food items like sauces or mustards. Non-beer-related foods and non-alcoholic beverages can also be sold as well as foods to compliment beer tasting like fruit, cheeses, vegetables, breads, crackers and chocolates. Some food items, especially those locally produced farm products not prepared for immediate consumption can be combined and sold as a package along with beer.

Let’s not forget beer accessories like any item used for serving, storage or consumption of beer or for decorative purposes. These may be sold separately or packaged with beer. What about home brewing equipment and supplies? Yup! You could sell home brewing kits, filters, bottling gear, yeasts, gruit, hops, barley, malt extract, home brew books, guides and recipes. Last but not least you can sell souvenir items like artwork, crafts, other agricultural products or any other articles that can be construed to propagate tourism within the region.

New York and Maryland are getting it right. They still have a ways to go but have taken a giant leap forward as far as helping talented home brewers take it to the next level and go pro. Less restriction, less start-up cost and more ways to generate higher profits from their primary product and a variety of ancillary products.

Maybe your state will be next!

Published by Bill Hoover


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